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Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is located in Delhi
Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk
Location in Delhi, India
Country  India
State Delhi
District North Delhi
Metro Chandni Chowk
 • Official Hindi
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 110 006
Planning agency Municipal Corporation of Delhi

Chandni Chowk (Hindi: चांदनी चौक, Urdu: چاندنی چوک‎) is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, India. The Chandni Chowk is located close to Old Delhi Railway Station and the monument Red Fort is located within the Chandni Chowk. Built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor of India Shah Jahan, and designed by his daughter Jahan Ara, the market was once divided by canals (now closed) to reflect moonlight, and it remains one of India's largest wholesale markets.[1][2]


  • History 1
  • Community 2
    • Religious buildings 2.1
    • Haveli 2.2
    • Shops 2.3
    • Restaurants and eateries 2.4
  • Depiction in media 3
  • See also 4
  • Further reading 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Procession of the Emperor Bahadur Shah II on Chandni Chowk in 1843
Painting of the Golden Mosque (Sunehri Masjid) in the 1850s, by Ghulam Ali Khan
Chandni Chowk in the 1860s
Procession of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as Emperor and Empress of India, 1903 Delhi Durbar
Chawri Bazar in the Chandni Chowk area in 2006

The history of Chandni Chowk dates back to the foundation of the capital city of Shahjahanabad when the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan established the Red Fort on the banks of the River Yamuna beside his newly founded capital.

Chandni Chowk, or the Moonlight Square, was designed and established by Princess Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, in 1650 CE. The bazaar, which was shaped as a square, was given further elegance by the presence of a pool in the centre of the complex. In particular, the pool shimmered in the moonlight, a feature which was perhaps responsible for the nomenclature of the marketplace.[3] The shops of the complex were originally built in a half-moon shaped pattern, which, for some reason, is lost today. The bazaar was in the time of Shah Jahan, who was famous for its silver merchants. This could also have an important role to play in the nomenclature of the place as silver is referred to as Chandi in Hindi, a word which could have been slightly deformed to form Chandni Chowk.

The pool in the chowk was replaced by a clocktower (Ghantaghar) that existed until the 1950s. The central location of Chandni Chowk is still referred to as Ghantaghar.

Chandni Chowk was once the grandest of the markets in India.[4] In fact, the Mughal imperial processions used to pass through Chandni Chowk. The tradition was continued when Delhi Durbar was held in 1903. Delhi Town Hall was built in 1863 by the British.

Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city, from the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. Originally, a canal ran through the middle of the street as a part of the water supply scheme. It was initially divided into three sections:[5]

  • Lahori Gate to Chowk Kotwali (near Gurdwara Shish Ganj): This section closest to the imperial residence, was called Urdu Bazar, i.e., the encampment market. The language Urdu got its name from this encampment. Ghalib noted the destruction of this market during the disturbances of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and its aftermath.
  • Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk: The term Chandni Chowk originally referred to the square that had a reflecting pool. It was replaced by a clock-tower (Ghantaghar) that was damaged and demolished in the 1950s.[6][7] This section was originally called Johri Bazar.
  • 'Chandni Chowk' to Fatehpuri Masjid: this was called the Fatehpuri Bazar.

Even though today Chandni Chowk appears choked with congestion, it retains its historical character. The following terms are generally used to describe the buildings and the streets:[8]

  • Haveli: a mansion. A normal haveli would have a big courtyard (atrium) surrounded on four sides by spacious rooms and often another walled courtyard around the exterior as well. One of the largest preserved havelis in the area is the Chunnamal haveli.
  • Kucha: a zone with houses whose owners shared some common attribute, usually their occupation. Hence the names Maliwara, the gardeners' neighbourhood and Ballimaran, the oarsmen’s neighbourhood.
  • Katra: refers to a separate wing of tradesmen and craftsmen belonging to the same trade. They usually lived and worked together. It is a system similar to the guild housing in Amsterdam.

It is a famous market known all over India.


Lal Jain Mandir and Gauri Shankar temple in the background
Gurudwara Sisganj

On both sides of the wide Chandni Chowk are historical residential areas served by narrow lanes (gali).

Religious buildings

With the most famous mosque of Delhi, Jama Masjid, built in 1650 in the vicinity, it is an unusual street that has several famous religious shrines, belonging to coexisting religions, lending the street a genuine cultural harmony. Starting from the Red Fort, the street has:

  • Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, established in 1656 with a bird hospital established in 1929. There is a Naya Mandir built in 1807 nearby in Dharampura, which was the first temple with a shikhar permitted.
  • Hindu Gauri Shankar Temple[9] built by a Maratha general Appa Gangadhar in 1761.
  • Shri Shiv Navgrah Mandir Dham, श्री शिव नवग्रह मंदिर धाम dedicated to Navgrah with the presence of Loard Shiv. The main dham of the temple is dedicated to Shri Shani Maharaj Ji. Shri Surya Dev is placed at the top of the main entrance. Shri Sankatmochan Hanuman Mandir and Shri Shakti Mandir are also attached with this premises.
  • Christian Central Baptist Church built in 1814.
  • Sikh Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib. The 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur and his followers Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Dyal Das and Bhai Sati Das were executed nearby by the Mughals in 1675 A.D. The Gurudwaras in the form of memorials were built in 1783 after Delhi, the then Mughal capital, was captured by the Khalsa (the corporate body of Sikhs) under the command of Baba Baghel Singh.
  • Muslim Sunehri Masjid built in 1721 by Roshan-ud-Daula Zafar Khan in the reign of Mohammad Shah. The Persian invader Nadir Shah spent several hours on the top of the mosque on 11 March 1739 to observe the Katl-e-Aam (the killing of everyone in sight) that he had ordered which resulted in 30,000 deaths.
  • Muslim Fatehpuri Masjid built by Fatehpuri Begum in 1650, one of the queens of Shah Jahan.


A haveli on Chandni Chowk in 1858 (picture by Felice Beato)

Some of the historical mansions include:[10][11]

  • Begum Samru's Palace of 1806 (see [12])now called Bhagirath Palace.
  • Naughara mansions in Kinari Bazaar, 18th century Jain mansions.It is a street with nine continuous havelies.
  • Khazanchi haveli, khajanchi were the accountants of Shah Jahan. There is a street named after them called "Gali Khajanchi", a long underground tunnel connects the haveli and the Red Fort, so that money could be transferred safely.
  • Haveli of Mirza Ghalib, Gali Kasim Jan (Gali Ballimaran)
  • Chunnamal haveli, Katra Neel
  • Haveli of Zeenat Mahal, Lal Kuan Bazar
  • Haksar Haveli, Bazar Sitaram, where Jawaharlal Nehru was married in 1916 to Kamla Nehru.
  • Haveli Naharwali, Kucha Sadullah Khan, where Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan was born.
  • Haveli Banarsi Bhawan, masjid khazoor, Where water well is builtin situated near to Meru Jain Temple.


Chandni Chowk's speciality is the variety of its markets and their Indian-ness: from authentic Indian food, delicacies and sweets of more than 1,000 kinds, to sarees with chikan and zari work. There are many narrow lanes with shops selling books, clothing, shoes and leather goods, electronic and consumer goods and whatnot. The area, even more so than the rest of the city, is very congested. This is also a good place for window shopping. It is the location of the original Haldiram's and many other brands like Gianis. A particular local delicacy are the jalebis, which are fried in pure ghee (clarified butter).

As one moves from part of Chandni Chowk to the other, the lanes and bylanes house the biggest wholesale markets of Delhi.

  • Cloth Market, a market for all the needs of the home furnishing fabrics. One can get ready-made items as well as customised services for decorating the houses.
  • Nai Sarak, the wholesale market of stationery, books, various types of papers and decorative materials. It house the stores of Plastic folders like SOLO,[13] Shipra [14] and many other leading brands. Nai Sarak is also a market for buying exquisite bridal Saris and Lehengas. DIVASA by Devta Apparels Pvt. Ltd jogiwara[15] Arun Sarees[16] and Nandlal Silk Mills.[17]
  • Lal Kuan is the wholesale market for hardware as well as hotel kitchen equipments. It is adjacent to Tilak Market which is wholesale place for industrial chemicals.
  • Dariba is associated with market of Silver and Gold Jewellery. The popular Jewellery stores are Hare ram Hare Krishna and MM Jewellers. This market is also known for trophies, shields, mementos and related items.

Restaurants and eateries

Food shop on Khari Baoli Road

Chandni Chowk is home to several famous restaurants/confectioners (halwais)[18]

  • The Ghantewala Halwai, established in 1790.
  • Natraj’s Dahi Bhalle, established in 1940.
  • The jalebi wala.
  • Kanwarji Bhagirathmal Dalbijiwallah established in the mid-19th century.
  • Chaatwallah, established in 1923, famous for fruit chaat.
  • Bikaner Sweet Shop, famous for rasmalai.
  • Gianiji ka Falooda, famous for Rabri Falooda, established around 1947.
  • Paranthewali Gali with paratha shops from 1875–1886.[19]
  • Meghraj and Sons, since the 1950s (?)
  • Chainaram, established in 1948
  • Annapurna Bhandar[20] is popular for Bengali sweets in Old Delhi. The most loved sweets served are Rasgulla, Plain Sandesh, Gur Sandesh, Ras Malai, Samosa, Dilbahar Recipes, Kadambari, Kheer Kadam, Kachagola, and Mishti Doi.
  • Tewari Brothers Confectioners, (famous for Motichoor Laddoo, Samosa) established in 1987

Depiction in media

Chandni Chowk was featured in the 2001 Bollywood film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham where the leading lady Anjali (Kajol) and her sister Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) lived. Though portrayed as a neighbourhood populated by a lower-class population, Chandni Chowk is shown to be a rich, cultural hub.

In 2008, The Bollywood movie Black and White starring Anil Kapoor, Anurag Sinha, Shefali Chhaya, and Aditi Sharma is set in Chandni Chowk.

In 2009, The Bollywood movie Chandni Chowk to China starring Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Mithun Chakraborty, and Ranvir Shorey features some scenes depicting the city.

In 2009, The Bollywood movie Delhi-6 starring Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri, Atul Kulkarni and Divya Dutta had its shooting in the ancient Walled City of Old Delhi and centred around Chandni Chowk.

See also

Further reading

  • Delhi, the emperor's city: rediscovering Chandni Chowk and its environs, by Vijay Goel. Lustre Press, 2003. ISBN 81-7436-240-1.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Encyclopaedic Survey of Islamic Culture: Growth & Development By Mohamed Taher, Anmol Publications, 1998
  6. ^ Old Delhi Clock Tower built in 1857
  7. ^ R. V. Smith, The mystique of clock towers, The Hindu, 26 March 2007
  8. ^ The Havelis, Kuchas and Katras of Chandni Chowk
  9. ^
  10. ^ Havelis of Old Delhi/Text by Pavan K. Varma and Sondeep Shankar. Reprint, First published in 1992. New Delhi, Bookwise, 1999
  11. ^ Itihas ki dastan hain, Dilli ki havelian
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Chowk and cheese
  19. ^ K. R. N. Swamy, Frozen paranthas posing a challenge to Paranthewali Gali fare, The Tribune, 10 November 2002
  20. ^

External links

  • Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir - Having Birds Hospital
  • Shri Shiv Navgrah Mandir Dham
  • Shri Gauri Shankar Mandir
  • Chandni Chowk's website
  • ,Traditional Dwelling Analysis of Chandni ChowkBhavana Muttreja, Archinomy website
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